Not Wanting To Tell Parents Can No Longer Be Used As Excuse to Turn Down Judical Bypass In Pennsylvania

In an attempt to clarify what can and can’t be used as reasons for a judge to deny parental consent bypass when it comes to an under-aged teen procuring an abortion, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has now made it clear that “she doesn’t want to tell her parents” cannot be a reason to say no.


“Every minor who seeks judicial authorization for an abortion does so because she lacks or elects not to seek parental consent,” Justice Max Baer wrote for the majority. “Thus, a minor’s failure to consult with or obtain the consent of her parent cannot serve as the basis for denying a petition for judicial authorization.”


Baer wrote that Jane Doe applied for the judicial bypass in March 2010, saying she was three months shy of turning 18, 10 weeks pregnant, and a high school senior with average grades who planned to go to college and hoped to become a lawyer.

She told the county judge she was concerned her mother would throw her out if she learned of the pregnancy, and that she had no relationship with her father.

When her lawyer asked the judge why he denied her application, the decision says the judge replied that if the judicial bypass was used any time a minor was worried her parent would be disappointed in the decision to have an abortion, “I can’t imagine that any parent is going to receive news that their child has an unplanned pregnancy.”

The judge later stated that he has other reasons for doubting her maturity, such as her lack of proper grammar and that she “was accompanied by her mother when traveling abroad.”

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  • equalist

    I’ve seen grown women and men with horrible grammar (I’m sure I’ve been guilty of it now and then, although at least I’ve resisted the txtspeak crap so far), and since when is traveling overseas with one’s mother reason to doubt their maturity?  If she was in her 30s, her mother in her 50s or 60s, it wouldn’t be an issue, so why is it an issue just before turning 18?  Sounds like nothing more than weak excuses to me.

  • johann7

    If you want your teenage daughters to consult with you if they become pregnant unexpectedly, try not dismissing, marginalizing, alienating, shaming, or in any worse way abusing them. Don’t issue unjustified behavioral edicts, have actual conversations about what you expect (and acknowledge that you might be wrong, or that they may disagree with your values and may make different decisions than you would make in their places) and build real relationships. Your daughters are real people with real lives and real agency*, not dolls you can craft in your image (your sons, too, and any non-binary-gender-conforming children you have, for that matter). Parental consent/notification laws are at best a case of parents who don’t have the relationships with their daughters that they wish using the state to try to rectify some part of that and at worst a case of overly-controlling parents using the state to enable their abuse of their daughters. Seriously, just treat your kids as actual people and not objects you own and get to order around and you’ll do alright. Yay for the Pennsylvania supreme court!

    *Yes, teen brains typically do not exhibit the same kind of impulse-control that adult brains do, and it is sometimes necessary to lay down absolute behavioral prescriptions/proscriptions (go to school, don’t drink and drive), but that same lack of impulse control can actually be positive and developmentally important, as taking risks, trying new things, and challenging the status quo during our formative years are how we progress as human societies (there’s a reason that movements against social injustices that are part of the status quo e.g. civil rights, women’s equality, gay rights, Vietnam War protests, #Occupy, etc. tend to skew younger). I’m not saying never tell your kids “no,” just make sure you have good reasons that are grounded in the child’s actual, demonstrable well-being and not just your own desires/peace of mind, and don’t simply dismiss your child’s perspective as irrelevant: it matters at least as much as your own when you’re making decisions for another.